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Reuben Saltzman

Joist Hanger Installation Defects

Many years ago I took a class put on by one of the largest manufacturers of metal brackets, Simpson Strong-Tie.   That class was a real eye opener – I realized afterwards that just about every deck that I inspect is constructed wrong.  Not all of the installation defects are major, but they’re always worth pointing out.  Today I’ll talk about one of the most common installation defects that I find with joist hangers in the Twin Cities – improper nails.

You thought I was going to say missing nails, didn’t you?  Too easy, too obvious.

Wrong Nails If the wrong nails are used at a joist hanger, it won’t perform as intended. To know what nails are supposed to be used, you first need to know what joist hanger you’re working with.  The most common joist hanger I find on decks is a LUS28*.  This joist hanger can be used with 2×8 and 2×10 joists.  Now that I know which hanger I’m using, I can go to the Simpson Strong-Tie web site to find out what fasteners are specified.

LUS28 Fastening Requirements

As you can see, this hanger requires 6-10d nails + 4-10d nails.  The big defect that I often find is that 10d x 1 1/2″ nails are used in place of 10d nails.  If you look down on the far right column of the above chart, you’ll notice only a few hangers will allow a 10d x 1 1/2 nail.  So what’s the difference between the two?  Quite a bit.  The photo below shows the two next to each other.

Joist Hanger Nail Comparison

Now here’s what the nails would look like if driven in to the floor joist.  You can see that the smaller nail isn’t long enough to even begin to penetrate the ledgerboard.  Click the photo for a blowup.

Nails in joist hanger

The really crazy thing about this is that the nails that are so much smaller are actually called “Joist Hanger Nails” at the big box stores.  They’re called joist hanger nails because that’s about the only thing they’re good for… but they’re usually not even good for that.   If you go to Home Depot and you look at their joist hanger display, you’ll probably find boxes of joist hanger nails sitting with the rest of the joist hangers, and no other types of nails.

Joist Hanger Nails Labeling

To identify these “Joist Hanger Nails”, you can usually just look at the head of the nail.  They usually have a big “10” stamped on them.  Standard 10d nails don’t have this.  If the nail doesn’t have a “10” stamped on the head, it may or may not be correct; the only way to know is to pull one out.

Joist Hanger Nail Head Blowup


Post Edit 8/13/13: These nails used to be easily identified by a “10” stamped on the head, but that’s no longer the case.  I just inspected a new deck today with a bunch of nails that had “10” stamped on the heads, but the nails were actually 2-1/2″ long.  Things change.

Long nail with 10 stamped on head

How serious of a problem is this? The manufacturer will allow these nails in to the header, but the total load will need to be reduced to 64% – a huge reduction.  Simpson Strong-Tie does not allow these nails in to the joist.  I confirmed this with one of their territory managers, who said they wouldn’t even calculate this load.  

* Joist hangers meant to be used outdoors or in contact with treated lumber will often have “Z” at the end of the model number.  In my example, the joist hanger used for a deck would actually have a model number of LUS28Z.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minnesota Deck Inspector


No responses to “Joist Hanger Installation Defects”

  1. Reuben Collins
    February 3, 2010, 4:20 pm

    So the nails into the header are driven directly perpendicular to the header, but the nails into the joists should be diagonal so that they also hit the header? If that’s so, then why do the 1.5″ nails result in a 36% loss? Any nails longer than 1.5″ would just stick out the back side of the header anyway, right?

  2. Reuben Saltzman
    February 3, 2010, 5:12 pm

    Properly sized nails will go through the header and then in to the rim joist of the house, where they’ll have even more ‘holding’ power.

  3. David
    March 12, 2010, 3:31 pm

    You are partially correct. Yes, 10d nails need to be used on the diagonal, but the “joist hanger nails” are used to attach the joist hanger to the header. The reason they are special is because they have the strength of the longer 10d nails, but are shorter so they don’t stick out. Therefore, the name is correct.

  4. Reuben Saltzman
    March 12, 2010, 6:36 pm

    Hi David, thanks for reading. You wrote

    Yes, 10d nails need to be used on the diagonal, but the “joist hanger nails” are used to attach the joist hanger to the header.

    That’s not correct – the manufacturer specifies full 10d nails in to the header. Just check the chart that I included. As I mentioned towards the end of my blog, the manufacturer will allow 10d 1-1/2″ nails at the header, but the load capacity gets reduced to 64%.

  5. Jim Kaczmarek
    May 14, 2010, 12:29 am

    Please clarify. When you have a single 2 x 8 rim joist (not a header which is usually connected to the house) which have several joists each connected to the rim joist with a LUS28 hanger, you need to use 10d by 3″ long nails? I am not talking about the diagonal nails, but the nails that would be perpendicular to the 2×8. Any nail longer than the 10d x 1-1/2 inch nail would penetrate through the single 2 x 8 rim joist and not add to the strength of the connection.

    Was the use of Strong-Tie screws talked about in your class? If so, any comments on using Strong-Tie screws versus 10d joist nails.

  6. Reuben Saltzman
    May 14, 2010, 5:44 am

    Hi Jim,

    You could still use 10d 1-1/2″ nails to attach the hanger to the header, but you would need to calculate the appropriate load reduction. Standard 10d nails should still be used in the joist.

    There was no mention of the screws at the time I took the class, but they look like a great product.

  7. Harvey
    June 28, 2010, 7:34 pm

    Hi Reuben,

    Like David said above, the 10d nail from a joist hanger nailer can be used at the perpendicular attachment of the joist hanger to the header provided they are stamped 10d. A 10d nail is a 10d nail no matter the length. However, the reason they specify full length nails is only for the diagonal installation. Other wise, like David said, the perpendicular nails will stick out of the header material and not provide any extra shear strength. Because the nail is longer it does not affect the shear load it will break at, it depends only on the diameter.

  8. Reuben Saltzman
    June 29, 2010, 4:22 am

    Hi Harvey,

    The problem with 10d 1-1/2″ nails isn’t their shear strength – you’re correct, that doesn’t change. The problem is their holding strength. I received this email on March 25th, 2010 from a Simpson Strong-Tie rep:

    Hi Reuben

    I am the local Territory Manager in MN and was forwarded your blog regarding improper nail installation. I am sorry you have not gotten a response until now, feel free to contact me or Nick Varien (, I am guessing you may have sat through Nick’s session in November of 2008.

    Here are a few details regarding your LUS28 discussion. I verified with our engineering department today that if a customer called with this problem, we would not load rate this application, per footnote 4 on page 16 of our C-2009 catalog. While we know the nails installed carry some load, we don’t know how the hanger will actually perform when loaded to capacity- EG, the failure mode may be nail pull out before the nails reach their calculated shear value, thus lowering the capacity even further. For the sake of discussion, you could calculate the reduction as shown below, but as I noted above, we would have concerns about some of the nails being withdrawn from the material before the calculated loads are reached.

    LUS28 SYP floor load =1055
    6 10d common face nails- 1055 x .6 x .77 = 487 lbs. (the .77 nail reduction is found on page 16)
    4 10d common joist nails- 1055 x .4 x 0 = O Lbs load (these nails do not penetrate the header)

    So from purely a calculation standpoint the load is slightly less than half.

    Also, I believe Home Depot does stock the 10D common and the 16D common Hot dipped galvanized nails from Simpson Strong-tie. They are normally merchandised in the Simpson Joist hanger section. Our 10D x 1 ½ nails are not labeled as joist hangers nails, rather N10D and there is a partial listing found on the nail packaging of which hangers these nails fit. This packaging was modified about 8 or so years ago to clarify the applications. Some of the “generic” manufacturers of these types of nails still use the Joist hanger label for 1.5” nails though.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have further questions- your blog did have some excellent and insightful information.

    Curt Johnson
    Senior Territory Manager
    Simpson Strong-Tie

    If a nail is stamped 10D, it will be a 1-1/2″ nail. Full size 10D nails don’t have that stamp on their heads.

    Also, I stopped by Home Depot and took a photo of the nails that they had sitting next to the joist hangers; while Curt was correct, they’re not labeled joist hanger nails by Simpson, they ARE labeled as joist hanger nails by Home Depot. You can see a photo below.

    Home Depot merchandising of 10D 1-1/2

    Thanks for reading.

  9. Mike W
    April 27, 2012, 6:48 am

    I have read all of your answers you have been giving people but I am not sure you have ever built a deck yourself. first of all if your house has the siding already installed and foam insulation on it your 3″ nails will not even reach the rim joist of the house. The other problem with the longer nails are that I have Brick house that my ledger board is attacked to so any nail over 1 1/2″ could not be driven in. I have built decks and houses for 35 yrs now and all are still standing

  10. Reuben Saltzman
    April 28, 2012, 5:14 am

    Mike W – are you saying you attach ledgerboards to siding with foam insulation behind it? Please say it ain’t so.

    I recommend you re-read the comments and answers I’ve given here. The solutions to your problems have already been given.

  11. Kurt
    June 18, 2012, 12:20 pm

    Hi Reuben,

    So I have read all of the posts and follow-up comments. But what if I used the 10d 3″ or 16d 3 1/2″ nails and they poke through the other side? Say right above the foundation through the house rim joist. I May have increased the decks strength, but did I just open a bunch of little water ways for water to enter my home? …. Even with proper flashing? …. Just want to make sure I construct this right!

  12. Reuben Saltzman
    June 18, 2012, 4:43 pm

    Hi Kurt,

    You have nothing to worry about. You did it right, and there is zero potential for leakage at the nail holes. It’s perfectly normal for the nails to protrude through the wood a little bit.

  13. Scott
    September 7, 2012, 10:06 pm

    Hi Reuben,

    I couldnt find this answer anywhere. I have a 2×10 ledger anchored to a concrete foundation wall. This only leaves me 1-1/2″ to nail into. A 3″ nail would hit the concrete. Am I missing something here? Thanks!

  14. Reuben Saltzman
    September 8, 2012, 4:40 am

    Hi Scott,

    You’ll have to use 1-1/2″ nails in the ledgerboard, but you can still use the 3″ nails going in to the joists at an angle. This will reduce the load capacity of each hanger, but it is allowed.

  15. Michael
    September 14, 2012, 11:26 am

    Scott’s comment (9/7/12) and Reuben’s response (9/8/12) are the closest to my situation.

    I’ve got 2×10 ledger board screwed up against cinder block wall using what I think was called Z-Cap anchors. Anyway, I’m planning to use 1-1/2″ perpendicularly into the ledger, regular 10d 3″ diagonally through the joist and into the ledger, and 1-1/2″ perpendicularly through the joist hanger into the joists. All nails galvanized, of course. Does this sound right?

  16. Reuben Saltzman
    September 14, 2012, 2:32 pm

    Michael – yes, that sounds right.

  17. Michael
    September 14, 2012, 11:30 am

    Follow-up to my comment of 9/14/12 at 11:26:

    Sorry, those were Tapcon screw anchors, not Z-cap anchors. Anyway, that wasn’t the point of my question…so sorry if that introduced any confusion.

  18. gary havens
    November 10, 2012, 9:08 pm

    As usual, Reuben, great info. But… why not place 2×8 or 2×10 blocking between each joist, secure it to the rim joist properly, then use 16d nails to butt nail each joist to the blocking? Would this not eliminate the need for steel hangers?

    Hmm… I used to think that deck attachment was critical only for decks over, say, 3 or 4 feet high, but now that I think of how people use charcoal/gas cookers, and how even a low deck collapse would spill hot coals/grease onto a child (or adult) … I’d best think again!

  19. Reuben Saltzman
    November 11, 2012, 6:17 am

    Gary – that sounds like a lot more work. Hangers are easy to do right.

  20. Jurgen Wagemans
    July 14, 2013, 8:50 pm

    Reuben, how about the nails shot from a pneumatic nailer for hangers, they only come in 1.5″ or 2.5″ nails with various gauges and a stamp on the head, are these allowed by inspectors and Simpson S.T. Even-though the diagonal nail would only penetrate 2.5+ inch? Is there a specific gauge and length that would make these nail/nailers not legally usable?

  21. Reuben Saltzman
    July 15, 2013, 3:33 am

    Strictly going by the book, it seems they wouldn’t be allowed… but this would be a good question to ask someone at Simpson. I’ll see if I can’t get an answer.

  22. Jurgen wagemans
    July 15, 2013, 8:50 am

    I did a little more research on this , to me “interesting topic” and found a link that supports SST claim that shorter nails D10 2.5″ could be used in for example LUS28 and 210 single joist hanger.

    Also the table that was referenced before in this blog has a line where a 2.5″ nail could be used pneumatically diagonally instead of a manually driven D16 3.5″ nail…. I wonder why, am I missing a rule? Perhaps they figure that a pneumatically driven nail is far more secure then hand driven as it is subject to imperfect driven nails that reduce the strength of the connection with the wood in which it is driven in….

  23. Curt Johnson
    July 17, 2013, 6:25 am

    Good Morning all

    Reuben asked me to shed light on fasteners- specifically gun nails. Keep in mind that we manufacture all types of wood to wood connectors- capacities that range from 200 lbs all the way up to 20,000 lbs. So a simple single fastening scheme just doesn’t apply. There are many.

    In the case of gun nails I would refer you to our latest technical bulletin published in 2012.

    I’m not sure why gun nail manufacturers chose 2.5″ instead of the common nail length, but that’s what’s available to our customers, so that’s what we have to live with. When using gun nails one must be careful to use the correct diameter, length and finish. In addition possible load reduction should be considered. Checking with the designer is always a good idea. In the case of an LUS28Z the load reduction is 10%. I advise designers to undersize our connectors by about 15% to accommodate gun nails, or possible minor installation issues.

    Like I said earlier, fastening is a complicated subject and we try hard to get this information to our customers- its on the box, on the shelf tag, in the catalog, on the website, we have installation videos available, we offer online training courses, live training courses. If you still have a question- feel free to just give us a call at 800-999-5099, we would be happy to answer your questions.

  24. Reuben Saltzman
    August 13, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Thank you so much for the info, Curt. Much appreciated.

  25. Steven
    November 24, 2013, 9:13 pm

    The house I bought has a deck built with the 1-1/2 10d nails all around. How do I fix it? Do I need to pull the diagonals, or would putting a pair of 16d nails in each end be sufficent?

  26. Reuben Saltzman
    November 25, 2013, 4:37 am

    If I were buying the house, I’d probably pull the diagonals and replace the nails with full 16d nails.

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